Thunder Bay delegation talks new jail, police funding at ROMA conference
Delegation of city staff and councillors met with Ontario cabinet ministers, bureaucrats in Toronto
Police funding, a proposed new jail, and how to collect owed Provincial Offences Act fines were among the topics discussed with the province by the Thunder Bay delegation to this year's Rural Ontario Municipal Association (ROMA) conference, the city said Wednesday.
The city delegation met with cabinet ministers and bureaucrats from several provincial ministries during the conference, including Ontario Attorney General Doug Downey, Solicitor General Sylvia Jones, and Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation, and Trade Vic Fedeli.
Among the topics discussed with Fedeli was the city's Bombardier plant, said Thunder Bay Mayor Bill Mauro, who was part of the delegation.
"We continue to press the case, every opportunity that we have, about the importance of Bombardier in the City of Thunder Bay as our largest private-sector employer," Mauro said during a media conference on Wednesday.
Mauro said he also spoke with Jones about the planned new jail in Thunder Bay.
"I think her language was we're moving forward, and getting closer to potentially putting the RFP out," Mauro said. "There was not a whole lot more."
Mauro said the city also discussed next-gen 911 with Jones; he said the new system is federally-mandated, and will cost the city about $400,000.
Gangs and guns funding lacking
"We're hoping that the province of Ontario will consider legislation that will enable us recoup some of those costs," he said. "Most other provinces have already done that."
Guns and gangs funding was also discussed with Jones, Mauro said.
"She made a commitment that they are talking to the federal government to try and receive more support ... to help Ontario, to help municipalities like Thunder Bay," he said.
City Manager Norm Gale said Ontario Municipal Partnership Funding was discussed with the provincial representatives.
That funding, Gale said, makes up about five per cent of Thunder Bay's operating budget.
"It's very important, because it helps us deliver programs and services that are mandated by the province, and those services and programs are not necessarily tied to traditional property taxation," Gale said. "The funding is necessary, and it's appreciated."
Gale said he also requested the province step in and offer funding to Shelter House. Currently, he said, the city provides about $399,000 to Shelter House each year, but the city believes those funds should be coming from the province.
He also serves on the Association of Municipalities of Ontario task force on health care, which is asking the government to rethink its decision to download public health costs onto municipal budgets.
"The funding is a major concern, " he said, explaining it went from a 75:25 split between the province and municipalities to 70:30. "We expressed that that is not sustainable and municipalities need to have a voice in the structure and delivery of those services and we seek explanations as to why those changes were made."
The task force also urged the government to use caution if they're considering making any "massive structural changes" to public health and emergency medical services, and noted those services already function very well and any changes must be "thoughtful and necessary", said Gale.
Millions in POA fines owed
Thunder Bay City Councillor Brian McKinnon, who chairs the city's intergovernmental affairs committee, said the collection of Provincial Offences Act (POA) fines — issued for things like driving and building code violations — was also discussed.
"Thunder Bay is owed between $30 and $40 million," McKinnon said. "If we could get some further ways to collect that money, that comes into our coffers."
"Think about the impact that would have on our economy, generally, and our operating expenses."
McKinnon said the province aware of the issue, as other cities are also looking to collect on owed POA fines.
"They are working on solutions," he said. "That's a very important issue for us."